ST. LOUIS (AP) — NHL teams play all season for home-ice advantage. Only to give it away.
It hasn’t meant much at all in the Wild-Blues first-round Western Conference series. The teams have traded victories the first five games, three of them coming on the road, sending overflow crowds home grumbling.
The so-called advantage has been iffy throughout the playoffs. The Rangers won twice on the road while eliminating the Penguins, whose lone win came on the road. Anaheim’s first-round sweep of Winnipeg included two road wins, Calgary seized the advantage by winning the opener at Vancouver, and every other series featured at least one triumph by the invaders, including Ottawa’s victory at Montreal to stay alive Friday night.
Wild-card Minnesota has a 3-2 series edge against St. Louis, the Central champions, and can advance to the second round for the second straight season with a victory on Sunday.
The Blues dominated the last time they were in the Twin Cities, chasing goalie Devan Dubnyk from the net in a 6-1 rout. Two days later, Dubnyk was the star with 36 saves in a 4-1 victory.
It’s the only series with no games decided by a single goal.
“Well, I don’t think I can explain the lopsided wins,” Dubnyk said. “I don’t think either team would have expected that. I think both sides aren’t surprised by the going back and forth.
“We knew it was going to be a long tough series and I’m sure they did too, and that’s when it becomes important to put games behind you, win or lose.”
Blues forward Steve Ott believes the way to eliminate gaps in their game is to rigidly stick to the relentless, physical style that earned them 109 points and the second seed in the West.
“We have to get rid of the lulls. We have to continue to be very robotic at times or almost methodical,” Ott said. “When we’re methodical, we’re very hard to play against.”
A look at Sunday’s games. All times EDT:
St. Louis at Minnesota. Wild lead 3-2. Game 6, 3 p.m., NBC, TVA, SN
Game 5 was the first time in the series the team that scored first did not win. Vladimir Tarasenko put St. Louis up early with his playoffs-leading sixth goal and the Blues were up 8-0 in shots before momentum abruptly shifted. Marco Scandella scored on a shot from the top of the left circle that goalie Jake Allen couldn’t handle, the puck popping out of his glove and into the net.
The Blues outshot the Wild 12-3 in the first period but the score was tied and Minnesota gained momentum over time.
Dubnyk instilled more confidence when he twice stoned Alexander Steen in the second period, kicking his pad into the air to bat away one close chance.
“The fireworks were going off in the building,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said. “Obviously, when you’re on the bench your heart kind of sinks. All of a sudden, you’re going down the other way on the rush. It’s a big lift for your group.”
The Wild were resilient, shaking off the 6-1 Game 4 rout at home, and now it’s the Blues’ turn.
“We’ve still got two games to play,” St. Louis defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “We’re not going to hang our heads, we know we’ve got to play better. We’ll take a hard look at ourselves and get ready for Game 6.”
Since 1986, the Blues have lost 11 of 12 best-of-seven series when tied at two games apiece, with the lone victory coming in the first round in 2001 against the Sharks. Game 7 would be Wednesday in St. Louis.
Montreal at Ottawa. Canadiens lead 3-2. Game 6, 6 p.m., CBC, NBCSN, TVA
The Senators stayed alive with a surprising 5-1 rout in Game 5, getting 45 saves from Craig Anderson and goals from five players. They’re trying to become just the fifth team in NHL history to win a series after trailing 3-0.
Anderson was a key to the Senators’ first-round upset of the Canadiens in 2013 and has been a difference-maker again since replacing Andrew Hammond for Game 3. He’s given up just three goals on 123 shots in three starts, and was targeted a bit late in Game 4.
“There’s certainly frustration on their part,” Ottawa coach Dave Cameron said. “A sure sign is when they’re taking cheap shots at your goaltender. Extremely cheap.”
Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty put it simply: “We’re trying to make it hard on their goalie.”
Montreal needs more offense, totaling just three goals the last three games and going 1 for 19 on the power play in the series. Tom Gilbert had the lone goal in Game 4, and Carey Price made 20 saves.
“I don’t think we have time to be frustrated,” said P.K. Subban, who drew a 10-minute misconduct along with Ottawa’s Eric Gryba for a lively wrestling match. “We have to wipe the slate clean.”
Montreal is 27-0 in best-of-seven series in which they have led 3-1, according to STATS. Twenty-one series wins came in Game 5, five in Game 6 and one — against the Bruins in 2008 — came in a Game 7.
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